Read BILLIONAIRE (Part 7) Online

Authors: Juliette Jones

BILLIONAIRE (Part 7)

BOOK: BILLIONAIRE (Part 7)
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BILLIONAIRE

Part
7

$

by
Juliette Jones

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Juliette Jones

All rights reserved.  No part of
this work may be reproduced, distributed or scanned in any electronic or printed
form without permission.

BILLIONAIRE is a work of fiction.  The
characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious.  Any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales are entirely
coincidental.

Cover art photo used under license
from Shutterstock.com

First Edition: November 2013

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BILLIONAIRE (Part 7)

 

Lila

 

He
looked so much like Alexander.

His
hair was a glossy dark brown instead of midnight black and his expression was
less controlled, more youthful in the emotion it revealed.  But no less
intense.  Alexander’s intensity was disciplined, masked by cool, skillful
awareness.  Jake’s was wilder, much closer to the surface.

And
I could read the thoughts running through Jake Wolfe’s mind as his rapt gaze
locked onto me.  A few of his friends laughed and called to him, throwing out a
lewd comment or two as he shut them out, focusing his undivided attention on me. 
He was shocked to see me here, intrigued and also wary, not of me but of
everything around me.  Like Alexander was, too: protective in an over-zealous
way.  I understood this.  Maybe that’s what childhood traumas do to a person
and the people who care about them, who know about the layer-upon-layer of
damage inflicted.  You get wary.  You get suspicious and distrustful.  You end
up morphing into a hyper-vigilant mess of untouchable yet deeply vulnerable
paranoia.

I
had no idea what Alexander had told him about us, about the extent of our
fiery, immediate bond.  Whatever Jake knew or didn’t know, he was already
dedicated to the job at hand.  Clearly, caring for his brother’s “assistant,”
found as she was – alone, drenched and half-clad – was now his most pressing
priority.  He approached me, spearing me with a stern, searching expression.

At
first I thought I was imagining him.  Like my wishes had taken form.  But then,
if wishes came true it wouldn’t have been Jake Wolfe who was standing next to
me in this almost-seedy bar on a rainy, red-tinted night.  It would have been
his brother.  Reassuring me and making promises that might somehow heal my
brokenness.

Jake
looked bigger than I remembered him.  His black leather jacket was well-worn
and added to the barely-there flicker of danger he exuded, the one I’d detected
the first time I’d met him.  The aura of his darkhorse demeanor was even more
pronounced tonight.  He was, like his brother, a stunning-looking man.  His
irises were so dark they looked black, like Alexander’s, and his eyes were
shadowed with that bruised vulnerability I recognized.  He looked like a
badboy.  A successful one.  One with a turmoiled past and maybe even a record. 
I couldn’t help thinking that if Jake Wolfe didn’t have an older brother who
guided him, employed him and bankrolled him, he’d probably either be in jail or
holed up in a mansion as an heiress’s moody gigolo.  His eyes sparked with a volatile
unpredictability.  In his world, this glimmer promised, rules didn’t apply.

Jake
pulled out a chair and sat down next to me, his eyes taking in every detail of my
clearly-distressed state of mind and my borderline-inappropriate state of
dress.  It was the concern in him that made me want to climb onto his lap, to
drink in the shelter of him.  He could take me back to Alexander.  He could
buffer me from the cold winds of my fear and my loneliness.  At the same time,
I felt the conflicting urge to run away from him as though my life depended on
it.

My
sense of equilibrium hadn’t exactly fled me, but instead was shadowed by a
spiked recklessness, like my survivalist instinct couldn’t quite tell which way
was up.  Jake’s resemblance to his brother affected me as a visceral, physical longing. 
I wanted Alexander so much my heart actually ached.  But I wasn’t about to be
locked up like some animal at the zoo, to be admired and played with, exotic
and useless.  My anger and indignation, though, had been damaged by a murky,
creeping despair.  As my buzz took on a harsh, darkening edge, reality had
started to close in.  I had nowhere to go, save one gilded cage.  Sure, I could
sleep on Eva’s floor, pick up where I’d left off three or whatever weeks ago. 
But it wouldn’t be the same. 
I
wasn’t the same.  I’d had a long,
lingering taste of perfection and now nothing could or would ever compare to
that.  The realization that I was not only changed by him but ruined for anything
less made me feel a renewed, rising sense of anger for Alexander.  Damn him for
presenting me with the best of the best, for infiltrating me with all his
goddamn glory so that anything in his wake would seem inferior in every
imaginable way.  A brief memory flickered, of other men who’d pursued me, way
back when.  In the hazy mist of my pre-Alexander wasteland of a lovelife.  How
pathetic they all were.  How mousy and mediocre.  How would I navigate those
waters now, knowing he was out there, walking around with his black hair and
his wide shoulders and his brutal, masculine beauty?  Other women would chase
him.  They’d touch him, everywhere. 
No, he was mine, mine, mine.
 
They’d make hot, sweet love to him.  They’d honor him by taking that glorious,
pleasure-gilded manhood into their bodies. 
Pushing deep.  So deep
.  I
felt the luscious effects of his echoing presence even now, where I remembered
him. 
Damn him.

“Lila,
what are you doing here?” Jake repeated.  “Does Alexan--”

“Please
don’t call him,” I interrupted hastily, and that edge of desperation that clung
to my plea got Jake’s full attention.  Not that I didn’t already have it, but this
complicated things.  His eyebrows furrowed with contemplative confusion, and
something more.  Only then did I realize I was grasping onto him.  That my
fingers had curled around his wrist as I begged him. 
I’m not ready
, I
wanted to say. 
I can’t go back.  I want to, so much.  But he crossed a
line. 
The
line.  I will not be made powerless by his obsessive
domination.  I can’t be caged like that.  I’ll go mad.
  Of course Jake
wouldn’t understand.  Of course his loyalties to his brother were much more
entrenched than the requests of a lonely, wanton, still-drunk acquaintance.  I
removed my hand, coiling my fists in my lap, colder than I could ever remember
being.

Jake
shrugged out of his black leather coat and draped it around my shoulders.  The
warmth of it was indescribable.  It was a gentle gesture, and one I wasn’t expecting. 
I wasn’t afraid of him, but there was an energy to him that kicked up the distinct
feeling that I needed to be careful.  Jake rewrote rules and so did I. 
Tonight, I wasn’t myself.  I was out of control.  He seemed to read this in me
and on some level tune into it, and soothe it.  Like we were on some kind of
fucked-up wildchild wavelength.

“Tell
me what happened,” he said.  “Tell me what you’re doing here.”

I
felt grateful, that he didn’t immediately pick up his phone and call Alexander,
that would respect my wishes like that, even though he probably knew as well as
I did that his brother was half-insane with worry and even rage right about
now.  But Jake didn’t move, or do anything at all, except wait for me to answer
his question with a kind of tender, dark-edged, unequivocal patience that was
somehow exactly what I needed at that moment.

When
I didn’t immediately reply, Jake continued, his voice calm, like he’d talked
people off ledges before and had a knack for it.  “I just saw him, a couple
hours ago.  We had a meeting in his office.  He said you were sleeping.”

“I
was sleeping.”

“He
said you look like an angel when you’re asleep.”

My
throat felt tight and achy when Jake said that.  I wished I could go back to
Alexander’s bed, and pick up where we’d left off.  I’d be more patient with him
this time.  I’d tell him not to lock the door.

“And
then you woke up,” Jake continued slowly.  “And at some point between then and
now, something happened.  Something that pissed you off or freaked you out.”

Maybe
because I knew enough about Jake’s past to feel that he might almost be able to
relate to my pathetic backstory, I answered him with an honesty that surprised
me.  “It was more about something that happened a long time ago.  To me.  A
memory came back to me and I … I needed to leave.”

He
watched my face, and his comprehension of what I was admitting was palpable and
connective.

“Did
my brother do something to hurt you, Lila?  Because if he did, I can assure you
that he didn’t mean to.  He can be an overbearing asshole, that’s fucking true
as hell.  But I can tell you this much: I have never, ever seen Alexander so
affected by a woman as he is with you.  I mean it.  He’s head over heels. 
Completely bonkers.  And I can guarantee that he would never do anything to
deliberately push you away.  His protectiveness gets the better of him
sometimes.  It does.  But he’s basically a good guy.  You should tell him what
he did wrong.  Explain to him.  Make him understand whatever it was he did to
piss you off.  I’m sure he’d do anything – and I mean
anything
– to get
you back.  You should give him another chance.”

I’m
not sure why but I was amazed that Jake was using the small offerings of
information I was giving him to try to make amends for his brother’s behavior. 
I found this immensely endearing.  Jake might have been a badboy and a rule-breaker
but he was loyal.  And something in the depths of his dark, glinting eyes made
me want to trust him, and to follow his advice.  Because I could see that he
got
this part of me that no one else did.  This broken, damaged corner of my soul
was easy for him to detect because he’d suffered too.  The only thing that had
saved him was the staunch, manic protection of the very person I’d spent the
past few hours desperately trying to avoid. 

This
realization softened something in me.  It made me remember why Alexander was so
obsessively protective.  He’d
had
to be.  It was the only way he could
keep his little brother safe from the monsters under the bed and the predators
outside the door.  Alexander hadn’t been locking me in;
he’d been locking
the threats out.

If
I hadn’t drunk at least a bottle of champagne over the course of the past few
hours, followed by several long swigs of the sweet, warm, whiskey-heavy brew
the bartender had set in front of me, I might not have spoken my epiphany out
loud.  As it was, Jake didn’t seem all that surprised.  “He saved you,” I
whispered.

Jake
paused, looking into my eyes intensely, not especially perturbed by whatever it
was I might have been insinuating.  “He’s saved me more times than I can
fucking count.  And he can save you too.  Why don’t you let him.”  His tone was
almost dull, matter-of fact.  And it wasn’t a question.  “Let me call him,
Lila.”

“No,”
I said, the lingering panic resurfacing.  “Not yet,” I heard myself add.  I needed
more time.  The refreshed memories were still gripping into me.  But they were
fading by degrees.  Jake’s presence was helping.  I could feel my logic and my
love returning, seeping into me like warmth.

I
would go to Alexander.  I would tell him what scared me, and what drove me,
until he understood.  I would try to teach him how I needed to be handled.  I
knew Jake was telling the truth.  Alexander had told me he loved.  Many, many
times.  He had scared me, but it hadn’t been intentional.  He was only acting
on his own deep memories, repeating behaviors that were as entrenched as my
reaction.  And I loved him.  So much.  The past few hours away from him had
been the loneliest I could remember.  He was worth every effort I could make,
even if he’d fucked everything up.

But
I wasn’t ready.  The bitter taste of my fear lingered.  The mess of my past
clung to me as tightly and wetly as my cold, skimpy dress.  I wanted to sleep. 
Maybe in the morning I could forgive, but darkness had a way of illuminating all
the particularly-gruesome half-hidden corners of my nightmares, detailing the
dredged-up horrors with sharp, insistent clarity.

“My
apartment’s right across the street,” Jake said.  “We’ll go over there, we’ll
get you warm, and we’ll call Alexander.  Okay?”

I
wasn’t sure that would be such a good idea.  Some tiny voice in the back alley
of my brain warned against being alone with Jake Wolfe.  My mind was too muddled
to analyze any of it; the only thing I could truly comprehend at that moment
was how tired I was.  Still hazy and swilled from all the alcohol I’d drunk. 
Whatever the grandfatherly bartender had given me only spun out the thin grip
on consciousness I was just managing to cling to.  “I’m not ready to see
Alexander.  And if you call him, I’ll have to confront him now, and I’m not up
to it tonight.  I need to sleep.”  I stood up unsteadily, holding onto the edge
of the table for support.  I slid Jake’s jacket off and handed it back to him.  “I
know this is lame of me to even ask, but would you mind if I borrowed some
money?  For a hotel?  I don’t need much.  I left my handbag at Alexander’s. 
I’ll pay you back, Jake.  As soon as I can.  I’m good for it, I promise.”

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